Tuesday, June 13, 2006


If there's one undeniable truth in amateur bike racing, it's that the lower category races are always the most dangerous. It's not rocket science. Guys in lower categories like 4 and 5 are simply less experienced racers and have likely been riding their bikes for less time than guys higher up. Race low, crash often.
Tell someone you're racing a 4/5 event and the first thing they'll say is "you should upgrade, that stuff is way too dangerous."

This season, I think, has really challenged that notion. I've done as many 3/4 races this year as 4/5 or just 4 races, and the the majority of the crashing was in the higher categories. In L'Esprit, a huge crash took out nine or ten guys in the 3/4. At Clark State Forest, I went over the bars at 25 mph after some guy went sideways in front of me---also a 3/4 race. At Da Vinci, several guys, mostly Cat 3s, crashed out hard while the 4/5 race was completely upright. And this past weekend, though there was definitely a messy last lap in the 4/5 crit, I watched no fewer than three pile-ups in the 3 race.

I'm no expert, but I blame a couple of things. First, a lot of guys are sandbagging it in the 3 and 3/4 races when they should be riding up with the 1s and 2s. Maybe because certain teams in this region tend to dominate the higher category races, strong guys on smaller squads don't feel like they have a chance. So they sit in Cat 3 and try to overpower each other. Second, the fields are just simply bigger this year in all categories, with more guys showing up to race and willing to ride all-out. Bigger, stronger fields and less-organized teamwork is a sure recipe for bloody battles on the road. At least, that's my theory.

The current crop of Cat 4s in this region are a talented, up-and-coming bunch, and to be honest I feel safer racing with them than some of the higher category guys I know. Funny how things work around here.